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Sense of smell 'underestimated'
Sense of smell 'underestimated'
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6183379.stm
Published by Djigit
December 18th, 2006
Default Sense of smell 'underestimated'

Sense of smell 'underestimated'

The sensitivity of the human sense of smell has been significantly underestimated, a study suggests.

US research had confounded the established belief that people have a poorer sense of smell than animals.


The work, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, asked people to follow scents on the ground, as a dog would do, and found they were as good.


A UK expert said the findings were "intriguing" and would aid better understanding of the sense.

It is not the second class system that has been the traditional assumption
Dr Peter Brennan, University of Bristol

The researchers from University of California Berkley laid scent trails, including one of chocolate essential oil, in a grassy field, and asked 32 people to find the 10 metre trail and track it to the end.


Those who took part were blindfolded and wore thick gloves and earplugs to force them to rely exclusively on smell.


Two thirds were able to follow the scent.


And while they remained slower than the animals at tracking scents, their performance improved over time.


In other tests, it was found that humans required both nostrils to be working to be able to track scents.

'Highly developed'


Writing in Nature Neuroscience, the researchers led by Dr Noam Sobel showed the human sense of smell was more powerful than previously believed and that, with training, humans might be capable of tasks which had been thought to be the exclusive province of non-human animals.
Dr Peter Brennan, a physiologist at the University of Bristol, said: "It's certainly an intriguing piece of research.


"It shows that although the sense of smell is less important for humans than it is for many other animals, it is nonetheless a highly developed and sophisticated sensory system.


"It is not the second class system that has been the traditional assumption."


He added: "There has been previous evidence that scent can elicit orientation and movement towards maternal odours by new-born babies, but this is the first time that adult humans have been shown to follow a scent trail."


Dr Brennan said the findings could enable specific areas of research into the human sense of smell.


"For example, it would be interesting to study the extent to which blind people make use of their sense of smell for finding their way around their environment."
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  #1  
By MarkL on December 19th, 2006, 09:06 AM
Default Re: Sense of smell 'underestimated'

I'd be much more interested in getting an idea of how far away someone can sense a pheromonal gradient in ambient/non-turbulent atmosphere, with a light wind, etc.

Standing on one side of a glass wall / door, wearing A314 , how about getting tokens of respect from someone on the other side of the glass? That's probably not due to direct sensation of the molecules, but instead due to the same kind of effect that produced such brilliant results for Clever Hans -- indirect visible cues from self-effect of the pheros. (Depending on the individual and the phero, a slight sheen of sweat on the face, nasal dilation, respiration, pupil response, etc. etc. etc.)

Some insects can sense a pherogradient at more than a kilometer distance. Walking slowly on a busy sidewalk today, I could see people walking in the opposite direction tilting their heads, twitching noses, apparently trying to get a new angle on their sniff. Really. It seems to be an unconscious, involuntary gesture. Which would indicate that with a 5-10 mph wind at my back, people can still sniff a 'mone at least 15 feet away, based on my impressions/estimates, and then "adjust angle" of their nose as they "close" on the source. (Or perhaps they are triggering a "sniff confirmation" of visual cues they pick up at a distance.)
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  #2  
By Sunny on December 19th, 2006, 11:16 AM
Default Re: Sense of smell 'underestimated'

Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkL View Post
indirect visible cues from self-effect of the pheros. (Depending on the individual and the phero, a slight sheen of sweat on the face, nasal dilation, respiration, pupil response, etc. etc. etc.)
Absolutely! A few days ago I walked by a restaurant and got an apparently strong reaction (interest) from most of the people sitting inside, behind different windows. I can't believe that any of my pheromone molecules actually travelled inside the restaurant into their noses. It visible cues and possibly, even though some scientists are still struggeling with this, some kind of energetic communication.
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  #3  
By PheroQuirk on December 29th, 2006, 09:24 PM
Default Re: Sense of smell 'underestimated'

Nature Neuroscience 5, 124 - 133 (2002)
Published online: 22 January 2002; | doi:10.1038/nn800 The olfactory receptor gene superfamily of the mouse

Xinmin Zhang & Stuart Firestein Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA
Correspondence should be addressed to Stuart Firestein [email protected]Olfactory receptor (OR) genes are the largest gene superfamily in vertebrates. We have identified the mouse OR genes from the nearly complete Celera mouse genome by a comprehensive data mining strategy. We found 1,296 mouse OR genes (including 20% pseudogenes), which can be classified into 228 families. OR genes are distributed in 27 clusters on all mouse chromosomes except 12 and Y. One OR gene cluster matches a known locus mediating a specific anosmia, indicating the anosmia may be due directly to the loss of receptors. A large number of apparently functional 'fish-like' Class I OR genes in the mouse genome may have important roles in mammalian olfaction. Human ORs cover a similar 'receptor space' as the mouse ORs, suggesting that the human olfactory system has retained the ability to recognize a broad spectrum of chemicals even though humans have lost nearly two-thirds of the OR genes as compared to mice.
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